Gramophone Dreams

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Herb Reichert  |  Aug 24, 2021  |  24 comments
One summer afternoon in Brooklyn, after a sweaty too-long day doing construction, I stumbled upon a hi-fi shop I'd never noticed before. I thought, hmmm, I bet they have air conditioning.

Inside, the air was only marginally cooler, but before I could leave, an excessively happy salesman introduced himself. After a bit of low-level chit-chat, he asked me if I was into British audio. I told him I "Never heard of it."

Herb Reichert  |  Oct 06, 2021  |  5 comments
Today is Monday. Since Saturday, I have changed the amplifier driving my Falcon Gold Badge LS3/5a speakers three times—from the Parasound Halo A21+ (250Wpc into 8 ohms) to the Pass Labs XA25 (>25Wpc into 8 ohms) to the Elekit TU-8600S (9Wpc into 8 ohms). Now I am listening to the Falcons via the just-arrived RAAL-requisite HSA-1b headphone and speaker amplifier. This unusual, made-in-Serbia amp is priced at $4500. It's specified to produce 10Wpc into 8 ohms, 20Wpc into 4 ohms, 40Wpc into 2 ohms, and 55Wpc into 1 ohm, these values from the loudspeaker output
Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2021  |  17 comments
In the household I grew up in, telling a lie was a death-penalty offense—worse than murder or leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter. So, believe me when I tell you that way more than a year ago, Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer sent me DS Audio's lowest priced optical cartridge, the DS-E1 ($2750 with energizer/equalizer, footnote 1). He said, "You need to know about this." Then every few months he would write and politely inquire how I was liking it. Each time I would write back saying, "I'm sorry Garth, I haven't tried it yet, but I'll install it right after deadline."
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 02, 2021  |  20 comments
Since the plague arrived, several of my closest audio friends have been chattering and bugging me constantly, not about masks, vaccines, Trump, or Biden but about Bruno Putzeys's digital-to-analog converter, the Mola Mola Tambaqui. They've been sending emails and texts like pesky kids:

"Herbie! Have you tried the Mola Mola? Come on man, what's taking you so long? Is Putzeys's DAC better than my MSB? Or the dCS Bartók? Or the HoloAudio May?"

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 23, 2021  |  11 comments
At noon on a cloudless, ridiculously bright 97° day, John Atkinson and I auditioned Audeze's new-but-not-yet-released CRBN electrostatic headphones. The audition took place at a sneak preview hosted by Audeze's principal, Sankar Thiagasamudram, in a sleeping room at New York's hipster-chic Ace Hotel on 29th Street and Broadway.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 01, 2022  |  8 comments
I'm deep into audio power amplifiers because they remind me of race car engines. Both power sources are wildly inefficient, converting only a small percentage of their stored energy into work while dissipating the rest as heat and vibration. Mainly though, I love how race car engines sound. How they shake the air. Just like amps and speakers.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 02, 2022  |  7 comments
A month ago, I ran into my Russian neighbor in the hall. As usual, he asked me what I was reviewing. (Vladimir likes to come over and listen, then find fault with everything I play.) When I told Vlad I had Stax's new top-of-the-line earspeaker, the SR-X9000, he lit up and exclaimed, "I need to hear it," adding that he has been a lifelong Stax fanatic and owns at least five different models, "dating way back."
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 22, 2022  |  35 comments
Look closely at the audio system in the photo. It belongs to my friend, and fellow audio seeker, Devon Turnbull (aka Ojas). Notice every object in the room, particularly the arrangement of amplifiers, and turntables, and that awesome herd of cartridges on the table in front of the listening chair.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 15, 2015  |  12 comments
I used to get invited to these highly secret audio soirées, held in a basement workshop at the end of a dark, garbage-filled alley in Manhattan's Chinatown. There was no street address—only a wire-glass window in a metal door—and if you didn't know the password (ie, if you weren't carrying some type of audio amplification), you weren't allowed to enter. That said, sometimes nonmembers were allowed to attend, but only when a member needed help carrying monoblocks: There was no parking nearby.
Herb Reichert  |  May 03, 2022  |  14 comments
The week before Christmas, I invited my artist friend Joe to visit my studio to see my 2021 paintings. To spice the invitation, I told Joe that while he was looking he could audition the newest flagship DAC from Denafrips, the Terminator Plus.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 02, 2022  |  16 comments
I have this friend, a smart, good-looking young physicist from Argentina. Naturally, I call him "Gaucho." He lives in a glistening-white steel-and-glass apartment overlooking lower Manhattan. I visit him regularly, usually with a group of audio friends, mainly to compare recordings, drink wine, and talk hi-fi.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 28, 2022  |  4 comments
I am an artist by trade. Saws and brushes and cameras are some of the tools I use. The aesthetic quality of the things I make is determined not by my skill with tools but by the dynamic relationships I establish among space, color, tone, and shape.

Of those elements, shapes are the most important because they are the first thing a viewer notices and the chief vehicles for transmitting sentiment and artistic intent. Stylized shapes, like those in popular art, may induce superficial responses in the viewer. Taut, Euclidian shapes suggest their author is of a higher mind; the Parthenon and Pantheon exemplify this type of shape making.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 02, 2015  |  8 comments
The golden rays pouring in through the left oculus transport a tiny child carrying a cross: ". . . the devil was vanquished, as if he had just swallowed the bait in the mousetrap." In his essay "'Muscipula Diaboli,' The Symbolism of the Mérode Altarpiece," the late art historian Meyer Schapiro explains how every object, every surface—even the smoke, light, and volume of space—depicted in the famous triptych by Robert Campin (ca 1375–1444) is a coded symbol explicating the mystical underpinnings of Netherlandish Protestantism.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 10, 2016  |  6 comments
Everyone in the room can hear the difference when I swap one phono cartridge for another. Same thing happens with loudspeakers. This is because both of these magnet-based transducer technologies are electromechanical devices, traditionally made of paper, wood, iron, and copper. (Nowadays, polymers, aluminum, and carbon composites are more typical.) Both are motor-generator mechanisms that either convert mechanical energy into electrical energy (cartridges) or vice versa (speakers). As audio devices, they are spool-and-wire simple, but even tiny changes in the materials and/or how those materials are configured can cause easily audible differences in how they transmit or present recordings of music. Why? Because every gross fragment and subatomic particle of these electromechanical contraptions is moving and shaking—shaking everything from the tiny jumping electrons to the wood, metal, and/or plastic containers that fix and locate these motor generators in space.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 29, 2016  |  12 comments
"Hail, Neophyte!"

That's what members of the Smoky Basement Secret Audio Society would exclaim in unison at the end of each ceremony admitting a new devotee. It was called the Smoky Basement Society not because everyone smoked (though they did), but because its members believed that whenever an audio designer finally got a design dialed in just right, he or she had metaphorically "let the smoke out." They exclaimed, "Hail, Neophyte!" because they believed that the most important aspect of being an audio engineer was to have a fully open "beginner's mind." In Zen practice, this is called Shoshin, or beginner's heart.

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